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Itasca Minnesota: Birthplace of the Mississippi River

It’s Thursday, time for Exploring Geography! Did you know you can walk across the Mississippi River? I didn’t, until I read Terri’s post!
Itasca Minnesota: Birthplace of the Mississippi River

You may have heard the Mississippi River called "The Mighty Mississippi" or have seen this magnificent river at many stops along its route. It’s one of the longest rivers in the world following behind the Nile, the Amazon, and the Yangtze Rivers. But, despite it’s mightiness, the Mississippi River has very humble beginnings.

Welcome to Itasca State Park located in northern Minnesota. It’s Minnesota’s oldest state park and a very popular tourist destination due to it’s wealth of history and nature. Perhaps the most popular spot in the park is the headwaters of the Mississippi River.

Headwaters of the Mississippi River
(Headwaters of the Mississippi River)
You may not recognize the Mississippi River by this picture. It’s small, peaceful, and very calm. It looks like a small creek, not at all what you imagine when you say Mississippi River. You can cross the river here without a boat or a bridge; you can walk straight across.
Lake Itasca
(Lake Itasca)
The headwaters empty into Lake Itasca through a small rock dam (44-feet long), which you can cross by foot. The rocks are slippery, but the water is calm. I’m always proud to tell people that I have walked across the Mississippi River!
Mississippi River Headwaters
(Mississippi River Headwaters)
The beginning of the Mississippi is wide in parts, but narrow in other parts. It flows directly into Lake Itasca and back out again. But, everywhere you look, it’s calm and shallow, not a bit mighty.
 Mississippi River Facts (from the National Park Service and the Minnesota Historical Society)
  • The widest part of the Mississippi River is at Lake Winnibigoshish near Bena, Minnesota where it is wider than 11 miles.
  • At Lake Itasca, the water flows at about 6 cubic feet per second. At New Orleans, the water flows at 600,000 cubic feet per second. (There are approximately 7.489 gallons of water in a cubic foot.)
  • The Mississippi River is home to at least 260 species of fish!
  • 326 species of birds use the Mississippi River as it migratory path.
  • Itasca State Park was designated on April 20, 1891, but it wasn’t until the 1930’s that the land was preserved due to a lot of help from the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Lake Itasca
(Lake Itasca)
Thank you for joining me on my trip to the Itasca State Park and the headwaters of the Mississippi River! For more information on Itasca State Park, you can visit the Minnesota DNR site.

exploring geography at mama smiles 

Thank you, Terri for this wonderful post – I learned a lot! Terri blogs at Creative Family Fun where she shares crafts, fun, learning, and activities for the whole family! Join the fun on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Check out some of my favorite posts from Terri’s blog: Tips for observing nature with small children, cork-print trees, and 10 ways to keep kids occupied while you cook dinner!
Are you interested in guest posting about a place you love for this series? Email mamasmilesblog at gmail dot com.

MaryAnne is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

13 thoughts on “Itasca Minnesota: Birthplace of the Mississippi River”

  1. Very cool! We are in St. Louis, so we see the Mississippi often. It sure doesn’t look like that at all. LOL! It’s big and muddy here. We just went up in the Arch yesterday and got to look down at it. Very neat experience for the kids.

    I remember seeing a show on Discovery or something about there being bull sharks in the Mississippi. They are the most aggressive kind.

    1. That’s so cool that you get to see it often! Bull sharks can definitely be dangerous – would not want to meet one of them!

  2. I had no idea you could walk across the Mississippi River. Great photos really helped bring the geography of the rivers birthplace to life. Thanks for sharing Creative Family Fun! I am really enjoying this series MaryAnne!

  3. What a great series! You are such a smart lady, Maryanne! & Terri thanks for the Minnesota visit! I am facinated by the Mississippi! I used to fly into Cincinnati a lot and loved to see the river from above!

  4. How cool to say that you’ve walked across the Mississippi River! I learned something new, I never knew it started in Minnesota. Thanks for the geography lesson!

  5. Elisa | blissfulE

    How fascinating! I never thought about where the Mississippi starts…

  6. Very nice! I’ve been to St Paul and went for a swim in Mississippi there. Mosquitoes almost ate me alive!

  7. We’ve driven over it several times, but it definitely wasn’t possible to walk or even swim across where we did :)

    1. My strongest memories of the Mississippi River are from driving cross-country during a big flood year – seeing houses underwater. I was fascinated to learn that it starts off so gently.

  8. This is a great post. I learned so much, no idea you could walk across the river and think it is so cool that you did. Sounds like a fun one day trip to plan for the family.

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